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Report: Identity Fraud Increased 13 Percent Last Year; Social Media And Smartphones Increase Risk

Though consumers and businesses have become more vigilant in protecting their identities, cases of identity fraud rose still rose by 13 percent last year — an increase fueled largely by data breaches targeting users of social media and smartphones.

More than 11.6 million adults became victims of identity theft in 2011, according to a report issued by Javelin Strategy & Research. Despite warnings about the risk of posting sensitive information online, 68 percent of people with public social media profiles reported they shared information such as their birthdays, high school, telephone numbers or pet names online — all information that could be used to help commit identity fraud when conducting transactions.

The report also found that smartphone users are more likely to become victims of identity fraud then other members of the general public — and 62 percent of smartphone users do not use a password on their phones, enabling their private data to be accessed by other people if the phone is lost or stolen.

Stolen identifying information can be used by criminals to make purchases and conduct transactions while posing as another individual. Notaries can help prevent misuse of stolen identities with documents by taking scrupulous care to follow state law and best practices by always requiring signers to personally appear and present satisfactory proof of identity.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

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